The “Communist” Relics: Keep or remove them?


Albania used to be one of the isolated countries in the world. From 1967-1986, 170 thousand of bunkers were constructed in all over Albania, and in every corner of street there would be seen memorials from World War II and past stories.

It has been already one of the main topics that has been talking in Albania, since the fall of communism. Nowadays, some bunkers are transformed as restaurants, churches, museums, homes and few of them are protected from the government. About the other relics, such as the World War II memorials and the representation of Qemal Stafa, are being abandoned and sacked from the people.

On the edge of Lake Ohrid, a Greek Orthodox shrine hides inside a bunker in Lin. Cited from National Geographic.

Qemal Stafa, hero or liar?

Qemal Stafa is one of the mysterious heroes during the World War II in Albania. He was one of the leaders of the Youth Organization in the Communist Party of Albania, since November 1941-May 1942. Firstly, he was known to be imprisoned in 1938-1939, because he was suspected to be a communist from the group of Elbasan.

1938/Qemal Stafa i qeshur në burgun e regjimit zogist dhe fotoja e  manipuluar
The original photo of Qemal Stafa in the prison of Elbasan and in the second, the falsified photo in the books published during the Communist period. Cited from 55 News.

During the war, he was well-known with the heroic day of May 5th, 1942. During a battle with the Italians, he was killed or suicided himself in the periphery of Tirana. Now the history gets interesting if he was a hero or a liar.

56 years later, Drita Kosturi, the girlfriend of Qemal, told in 1998 during an interview in magazine “Klan” that he suicided himself, in order to let save his friends that were trapped from the Italian police. After he committed suicide, his friends were not saved from him and were captured. While the communist historiography and some of his friends that were with him tell the second version that Qemal fought by himself against the police and then, he was killed around the lunchtime.

The memorial of Qemal Stafa, located near the hospital of Tirana. Cited from Google Maps.

Today, academics and witnesses have talked less about his figure. Since 1942, the historiography has been considered him as one of the main heroes of World War II. But his memorial where he was killed was sacked from the new owners that migrated there in the 1990-2000 era, and his figure is not studied well in the Albanian historiography. In the future, there should be further studies about his story.

The question of the bunkers

Moreover, Albania was known in the construction of 170 thousand of bunkers in all its territory. The bunkers were served in the plan of “bunkerization of Albania” from Enver Hoxha and the protection of the country from an imaginary invasion from a NATO country, Warsaw Pact country, Romania or Yugoslavia.

File:Albania bunkers.jpg
Bunkers in Albania, photo captured in 2006. Cited from Wikimedia Commons.

After the fall of communism in Albania in 1991, the Albanian people, however, are resourceful by nature, and are transforming bunkers in entertaining places. From above, the turreted bunkers appear to be braille characters strewn across the landscape. Expect from this way, the people decided to sack the bunkers in order to forget the past from the Communist period.

In Tirana, two main bunker bases (one near center and in periphery) are transformed as museums of memory in which Albanians and tourists can delve into a regime’s secrets and bring the past and suffering of a people back to life. In the coming times, the Albanian government should pay attention in the rehabilitation of some bunkers, in order to seek people in an occasion of war.

The condition of the Albanian memorials

Expect from the bunkers and the question of May 5th, Albania has 700 memorials, fluently dedicated to the events that happened during World War II and Interwar period. These monuments are found popularly in Albania, such as in villages and periphery of big cities.

Lapidari në Pezë (Shqip)
The memorial of the battle of Peza, happened in 1942. Cited from

After the 1990’s, the sculptures, headstones and monuments already deprived of the historical context and ideology that built them, have been swallowed up by the urban or natural landscape, forgotten and abandoned by the locals.

In 2014, the Ministry of Culture planned on the restauration of the memorials, but the plan failed, due that in Albania did not exist a law to protect these monuments. Aftermath, some of these monuments were painted in white, scripts were damaged such as in the Memorial of Artillery in Tirana and the destruction of the memorial of Shyqyri Ishmi and Muhamet Gjollesha.


In conclusion, Albania and its government are having difficulties in resolving the question of the communist relics, after 30 years of pluralism. If this question could have been discussed since the beginning of 1990’s, the conditions of the monuments today could have been very different.

Question of “communist” memorials, the story of May 5th and the question of bunkers will put more difficulties in the question of the modern cultural and historical heritage in Albania in further future. If any law about the protection of bunkers and communist memorials will be approved in the future and there will be any research in the future, it will be no late that the communist history could be resolved in Albania.


Crevar, Alex. “Inside Albania’s Forgotten Military Bunkers.” National Geographic, National Geographic, 3 May 2021, Accessed on 4 May 2022.

Dervishi , Kastriot. “1938/Qemal Stafa I Qeshur Në Burgun E Regjimit Zogist Dhe Fotoja E Manipuluar.” 55 News, 4 May 2020, Accessed on 4 May 2022.

Muraci, Aranit. “A duheshin prishur bunkerët e Enverit? Italianët paguajnë deri në 85 mijë euro për një të tillë.” Tema, 4 March 2022, Accessed on 4 May 2022.

Observatori. “Monumente Dhe Lapidarë Të Fshehur Nën Bronze Ideologjike.” Observatori i Kujtesës, 20 July 2016, Accessed on 4 May 2022.

Oei, Vincent W.J van Gerven Oei. “Jo të gjithë restaurimet e lapidarëve janë si të Ministres Kumbaro.” Exit News, 8 May 2017, Accessed on 5 May 2022.

Television, Klan. “Opinion – Si U Vra Qemal Stafa? (5 Maj 2014) – Youtube.” Youtube, Klan Television , 6 May 2014, Accessed on 4 May 2022.